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‘A human life isn’t meaningless to me’ The Moscow cop who refused to press charges against a protester explains why
Samariddin Radzhabov is one of nearly 20 people charged with felonies supposedly committed at an opposition rally in Moscow this summer. His offense was throwing a plastic bottle at police officers on July 27. One of these officers, Vitaly Maksidov, refused to press charges against Radzhabov and later left the police force. Meduza asked the now former cop what he thinks about the city’s protests and why he resigned. His responses are reproduced below.
I was born in Nalchik [the capital city of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic], but I moved to Moscow a long time ago. The first time [I came here] was in 2004, and then I’d go back and forth. I didn’t study in the Interior Ministry’s departmental institute — I got applied training. I joined the police force in 2017. It may be cliche, but I wanted to serve and protect.
It’s not that I have oppositionist views, but a human life isn’t meaningless to me. And on the force there was no problem here, before the summer of 2019. I served in the Second Operational Regiment. The job was to provide security at public events like soccer games and concerts. I’d never worked protests before.
I filed my resignation before the rallies. I decided to quit sometime in May, mainly for family reasons. My leaving was in no way connected to the protests. I filed my resignation on July 19, a week before the [July 27] rally. I worked that protest, even though I didn’t want to be a part of that. I believe people should be able to express any opinion, no matter what. Things escalated this summer because of the elections.
We weren’t given any instructions when working these protests. To find out why [the police] were so rough, you’d have to ask the officers who went that route. I basically covered the withdrawal. I was in the escort group, and I covered the rear, just in case. I never had to resort to any riot-control equipment, meaning my baton. I wouldn’t have done that. I can’t say why the others did. My colleagues and I didn’t discuss it.
I didn’t see anything at the time of the incident [with Samariddin Radzhabov]. I only heard the sound [of the plastic bottle]. I didn’t see the bottle itself. It was only later in video footage that I saw that the bottle flew past us. I discussed the situation with my colleagues when we were all called as witnesses in the case. That was more than two months ago. At the time, they didn’t consider themselves victims, saying that they hadn’t seen anything, either. Then [prosecutors] named us as victims, and I haven’t spoken to them since.
I didn’t press charges, and nobody asked me to do it. Throughout my time with the police, I never once saw the brass leaning on or forcing [staff] to do anything. I’m not speaking for everyone in the Interior Ministry or the entire system here — this is just my own limited experience.
Of course, nothing would have changed, even if I hadn’t already resigned. I still wouldn’t have pressed charges. My status, whatever it is, has no bearing here. I couldn’t afford to be a victim in a case like that, where someone’s life is on the line. I don’t believe that this person and his actions presented any danger to me, physical or otherwise.
I don’t understand the mess surrounding this situation [Maksidov’s refusal to press charges]. I didn’t do anything to warrant this kind of reaction, and I’m honestly surprised. This is a simple human thing to do. I feel bad for the guy, and I hope the court reaches a fair decision. I read somewhere that all this doesn’t matter, but there are still three more victims in the case. But I hope it factors in somehow.
It so happened that I left the police in August, after the first protests. I didn’t leave because of the protests, but I would have quit anyway, if my service on the force had started doing more harm than good.
Since leaving, I haven’t been doing anything connected to the Interior Ministry or law enforcement. I went to one permitted protest on September 29 in support of the “Moscow Case” defendants. I was just another face in the crowd. I felt a sense of unity.
Translated by Kevin Rothrock
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